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Putting more than a movie on your plate

August 19, 2004|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A fledgling theater chain with national aspirations is giving "dinner and a movie" a whole new meaning.

Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Ltd. is a movie theater and restaurant under one roof. Customers can order beer, wine, burgers, sandwiches and pizza (with names such as "Porky's" pepperoni and "Poultrygeist" chicken pesto) at their seats as they watch new releases or independent or older films.

The chain, which has three Austin locations and one in Houston, also has special promotions, among them showing a kung fu movie and offering a full Asian menu, or serving spaghetti with "spaghetti westerns."

The company hopes to grow to 200 U.S. franchises. It's an ambitious project for a small chain founded in 1996 with one screen that showed second-run films and played host to eccentric events -- such as a showing of "Jaws" at a lake where moviegoers watched from inner tubes while underwater swimmers pinched their legs.

A side project of the Drafthouse is a traveling giant inflatable movie screen. The Rolling Roadshow, as it is known, aired "Caddyshack" on a golf course, "Deliverance" along the Guadalupe River and "Goonies" at Longhorn Caverns. It recently was used to show Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Crawford, near President Bush's Texas ranch.

The original Drafthouse owners, Tim and Karrie League, sold the name and all franchise rights to a couple of Austin businessmen who want to expand the franchise. The Leagues will keep ownership of the Rolling Roadshow, Drafthouse President John Martin said.

Franchises will be based on a prototype Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin that shows new releases, some with a twist, as well as offbeat viewings. One recent example: Moviegoers who saw "Garfield" this summer were treated to the orange cat's favorite food, lasagna.

Drafthouse Chief Executive Terrell Braley said most people who see movies go out to eat before the show, and the chain gives customers a place to do both.

"Rather than two irritations, two looking for seats, two bad services, you have one enjoyable, wonderful experience without irritation," Braley said.

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